Monday, April 12, 2004

You say Emeka, I say....Pervis?

Jason Whitlock tore himself away from the buffet table for a few hours to pen this article on Emeka Okafor, and the general problem with over-hyping (hat tip to Yoni...who obviously didn't like the piece as much as I did)

Last Monday night we tried to turn Emeka Okafor into a modern-day Akeem Olajuwon. It was nothing more than overhype intended to mask an inferior product. The public, intelligently, didn't buy it. Monday-night's championship tilt featuring Connecticut vs. Georgia Tech, Okafor vs. Luke Schenscher -- an alleged re-enactment of UCLA vs. Houston, Lew Alcindor vs. Elvin Hayes, or Georgetown vs. Houston, Patrick Ewing vs. Akeem Olajuwon -- was the worst-rated NCAA title game in the modern era.

Those of us who participated in the overhype of this matchup should be embarrassed. But that's what we do now, particularly in college basketball. The product is so weak and we so desperately long for the good old days that we'll pretend Emeka is Akeem and Luke is Patrick.

Okafor is the ideal college athlete. He's going to graduate in just three years. He's an academic All-American. He's a gentleman on and off the court. He helps old women cross the street. He comes from a supportive family.

He's the next Pervis Ellison. You remember Never Nervous, don't you? He led Louisville to the national championship and then became the No. 1 pick in the 1989 draft. The Sacramento Kings plucked Never Nervous. Ellison showed a little early promise, could never stay healthy, bounced around the league and eventually fizzled into oblivion.

Okafor isn't nearly as gifted as Ellison. Okafor reminds me of Adonal Foyle, a sound athlete with lots of brains. Okafor doesn't have a polished low-post game. He doesn't have a move that will consistently produce points at the next level. He'll score on dunks and put-backs. He doesn't put the ball on the floor well enough to excel facing the basket. And he doesn't have Carlos Boozer's big butt to muscle guys in the paint.

Okafor is a top-flight college player. There are a dozen high school kids with more basketball upside, and there are probably a half dozen more kids overseas who will outplay him on the next level.

But, hell, we talked about Okafor Monday night like he was the second coming of Karl Malone. I guess you have to say something, especially when your game is in the toilet and no one is watching. Might as well overhype. No one is listening anyway.

Wowza, that's some scathing stuff. And refreshing, to be honest. After an article like this after the Candace Parker article last week, Whitlock has proven he at least isn't afraid to go outside the mainstream opinion.

Not that he isn't a decent prospect who had a great year, but sportswriters across the country are HOPING that Okafor makes it big in the league, to 'show up' all of the young high school and international kids who are going in the league early. After 3 years of college and a degree, Okafor is certainly more well-rounded and educated than he was when he was 18, and he's a better basketball player than he was then. But that doesn't change the fact that he isn't Tim Duncan coming from Wake Forest, or (good god) Olajuwon. Look at things objectively, and tell me how good an NBA player he'll really be.

We'll see if Okafor proves me wrong, but in my opinion the Bulls shouldn't be too swayed by his college stardom. If they can get a top-flight talent by trading the pick, go for it. The team already has a player with similar age and game, who happens to be 3-4 inches taller and able to jump out of the gym. Oh, and they also have the same...issues.